Like Bridgerton? Wait till you catch Mr. Malcolm’s List

Mr. Malcolm’s List film starring Freida Pinto, Sopé Dìrísù, Zawe Ashton and Theo James, arrives in US theaters Friday from Bleecker Street.

Years before Bridgerton and the Regency-era fashion moment it helped inspire, director Emma Holly Jones was dreaming of an early 19th century romantic comedy with a diverse cast.
Inspiration isn’t always easy to pinpoint, but in this instance, Jones can trace the spark back to a fortuitous week in 2015. While listening to the “Blacklist” podcast, which spotlights unproduced screenplays, she heard Suzanne Allain’s script for Mr. Malcolm’s List, a lively Jane Austen-inspired romp about a high society marriage market and a woman seeking to get revenge on the picky suitor who rejected her. As someone who was named after an Austen heroine herself, it stood out. Then, a few days later, she caught an early production of Hamilton.
“I came out of that show and my mind was just racing,” Jones said. “Mr. Malcolm’s List in the style of Hamilton.” It would take about seven years to get it to the big screen, however. The film, starring Freida Pinto, Sopé Dìrísù, Zawe Ashton and Theo James, arrives in US theaters Friday from Bleecker Street.
Knowing that it might be difficult to finance a period piece from a first-time director, they started with a short film as a proof of concept. Many of the actors from the short, including Pinto as the scorned woman’s friend, reprise their roles in the feature. For most, it was an opportunity they rarely get.
“I always loved the Jane Austen period… those mannerisms, the costumes and the corsets,” said Pinto. “But I’d never been part of a world like that in my own acting career.”
Released by Refinery29 in early 2019, the short Mr. Malcolm’s List was a hit and they were then certain that they had something that people wanted to see. To date it’s been viewed over 2 million times. Pinto even decided to executive produce the feature.
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But there were still obstacles to come, from the pandemic to casting. To play Mr. Malcolm, a handsome earl’s son with considerable inherited wealth who is the catch of the season, casting director Tamara-Lee Notcutt introduced Jones to Sopé Dìrísù.
“From the moment I met him, I was like, he’s Malcolm or I don’t do the movie,” Jones said. “I’m just the most stubborn human.”